2020•07•17 New York
Building on the discussions from the Higher Education Sustainability Initiative (HESI) Special Event held at the UN High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF), a HESI Roundtable event was held on 15 July 2020 to reflect on the discussions and work towards actionable next steps. The event engaged various stakeholders in higher education to outline their role and contributions in redesigning higher education for sustainable development and to collectively outline a path forward to support this vision. A total of 17 HESI members gave presentations describing the steps their organisation has taken thus far, as well as the future directions planned, including how they hope to engage with the HESI community.
UNU-IAS outlined its efforts in advancing sustainability through its Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) project, in particular the ProSPER.Net Network, an alliance of universities in the Asia-Pacific region committed to integrating sustainable development into postgraduate courses and research. This network conducts joint research projects through member universities, capacity building programmes, and is currently investigating the response to the pandemic amongst its members in the Asia-Pacific region. Speaking about results from the recent survey conducted, UNU-IAS Director Professor Shinobu Yume Yamaguchi stressed the need for systems thinking when approaching how to build back better, in addition to redesigning and reorienting higher education in these broader efforts.
Looking ahead, the discussion looked at focus areas for HESI in 2021. The pandemic has led to more calls for universities to provide solutions, thus the sector has a unique opportunity to maximise its role, especially in areas which are most urgent, such as climate change. Finding additional opportunities for youth voices to be supported is very important and being able to connect efficiently with decision-makers, demonstrating the relevance and value of higher education, and ensuring voices from the sector are heard is crucial, both in the near-, short-, and long-term.
Across the HESI network, it was apparent there are interconnections through themes, events, and research opportunities which could make for mutually beneficial partnerships, along with a wealth of tools and resources available to the collective community. The session was a valuable opportunity to understand more about these, providing insight that can drive how the network continues its work in pursuit of redesigning higher education for the future. The network also aims to further engage its many stakeholders and constituencies as it works towards this goal.